Florida Weighs Options After Breaking Party Rules Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean says Florida's and Michigan's primaries will not count and suggests party officials in the states repeat their presidential nominating contests. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist talks to Robert Siegel about holding a new primary.
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Florida Weighs Options After Breaking Party Rules

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Florida Weighs Options After Breaking Party Rules

Florida Weighs Options After Breaking Party Rules

Florida Weighs Options After Breaking Party Rules

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Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean says Florida's and Michigan's primaries will not count and suggests party officials in the states repeat their presidential nominating contests. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist talks to Robert Siegel about holding a new primary.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Now, Florida Governor Charlie Crist on his state's primary and the Democratic convention. Gov. Crist is a Republican. He and Democratic governor Jennifer Granholm of Michigan yesterday urged that their delegations be seated - two big states that as of now would be absent from the Democratic convention and whose presence could make a real difference for the outcome.

Here's what Howard Dean, the Democratic National chairman, said here yesterday about the lead up to all this when Florida set an early primary date against Democratic Party rules.

Mr. HOWARD DEAN (Chairman, Democratic National Committee): When this was all happening and we are warning Florida not to do this and not to move out of their window and be unfair to the other states that had done the right thing, we suggested that we would even help them pay for it. They rejected, didn't want to talk to us, and so that's all water under the bridge.

SIEGEL: Well, Gov. Crist is on the line now from Tallahassee.

And Governor, are you now ready to talk with Howard Dean about a new primary date?

Governor CHARLIE CRIST (Republican, Florida): Well, I'm happy to talk to the people of Florida and they're concerned about it. And I did have a conversation with Gov. Jennifer Granholm yesterday, of Michigan, as well as Sen. Bill Nelson and Mel Martinez of Florida, Democrat and Republican, respectively, and we're all on the same page - and that is that the people who've already voted in Florida, in the Sunshine State, and in Michigan, should have the opportunity to haves count.

That - you know, I'm a Republican here in Florida, and even though I'm talking about, really, the Democratic primary, let's face it, the Republican primary is over. John McCain is now the nominee. Now, I think it's important that as governor, that I understand - my constitutional duty is to be the governor for all the people of my state. I don't want half of our voters to in effect be disenfranchised.

SIEGEL: Governor, are you saying therefore that the point is to get the results of the primary that was held in late January acknowledged by the Democrats, or are you saying you'd have another primary or some new system to choose delegates?

Gov. CRIST: Sure. I'm saying the former. I'm saying that our preference here is to go ahead and seat the delegates who have been selected by virtue of the vote - a record turnout vote I should add, January 29th - and have those votes not be disenfranchised but rather be counted as they should be in a democracy.

SIEGEL: That's your preference. But since Democratic chairman Howard Dean has said, no way, you know what the rules were and that was in violation of it. Is there room to talk about some, what some are calling the redo the Mulligan primary, you know, take it over again?

Gov. CRIST: Well, there's always room to talk when you're talking about, you know, protecting and securing democracy. And I think that we're talking about choosing the next leader of the free world. So, what's important maybe is to see - to take the advice of Sen. Bill Nelson. He issued a statement today about the fact that if in fact you would have a redo election, that it would be paid for not by the taxpayers of Florida but rather by the Democratic National Committee. The estimates, as you may know, are anywhere from 18 to in excess of $20 million in order to redo an election here in Florida.

So I think that Sen. Nelson is on the right track if in fact the conclusion is you would have to have a second primary, but my preference is that the delegates who were selected would go ahead and be seated.

SIEGEL: As a matter of logistics and mechanics, if the Democrats picked up the tab for another primary, how long would it take? How soon could you have a primary in Florida?

Gov. CRIST: Well, I've heard some discussed that the possibility of doing so in June might not be a bad idea. Obviously that precedes any of the convention and certainly something we could work out. But, again, my preference, let's go ahead and seat the delegates that are already have been selected in Florida.

SIEGEL: But June would make it the very end of the primary season that would give Florida some pride with a place in this process, which is what it was seeking in the beginning.

Gov. CRIST: Well, I suppose that argument could be made, and so that probably is not an unreasonable time. We're in a legislative session now. That goes on until May. So, if the option were chosen to hold a second primary on the Democratic side, probably June would not be an unwise time to do so.

SIEGEL: Just to sum up, if the Democratic Party were somehow to pay for it and if it could be scheduled in June, as far as you're concerned, another primary in Florida would be okay with you, and you think you're going to get that passed in Tallahassee?

Gov. CRIST: Well, I think that would be possible. But, again, I've got to state my preferences to go ahead and seat the delegates who have been selected January 29th. But if, as you lay out, in the hypothetical, if the Democratic National Committee would pay for it, we could find a way, I believe, to get it done. I do believe that would be feasible.

SIEGEL: Gov. Crist, thanks a lot for talking with us.

Gov. CRIST: Thank you. Great to be with, Bob.

SIEGEL: It's Charlie Crist, the governor of Florida, speaking with us from Tallahassee.

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What's Next for the Democratic Candidates?

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama talks to the press on the plane on his way to Chicago on Wednesday. Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton addresses her supporters after winning the Texas and Ohio primaries on Tuesday. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Democrats in more than two-thirds of the country have passed judgment on the presidential candidates, but still, the party does not have a presumptive nominee.

What's more, there are no contests in the upcoming weeks that are likely to prove decisive.

Sen. Barack Obama remains ahead in the number of pledged delegates: He has won 1,368 to Sen. Hillary Clinton's 1,226. But Clinton has recent wins on her side, including the Ohio and Texas primaries.

So, what's next for the Democratic candidates?

Adding Up the Pledged Delegates

It has become increasingly unlikely that either candidate will be able to clinch the nomination on pledged delegates alone.

Obama remains ahead on this count, with a lead of 142 pledged delegates over Clinton.

There are 540 pledged delegates at stake in upcoming contests, according to The Associated Press. The Democratic Party awards pledged delegates proportionally, based on the popular vote. That will make it difficult for either candidate to roll up a huge lead in the pledged delegate count in the contests that remain.

That's because in a close contest, the candidate who loses the popular vote could end up with as many delegates as the winner. (In Nevada, Obama actually got more delegates than Clinton, even though she won the state's caucuses.)

To secure the nomination ahead of the convention, a Democratic candidate needs to accrue 2,025 total delegates — both the pledged kind and superdelegates. Neither candidate is close to the final tally needed.

Shoring Up the Support of Superdelegates

With the division of the pledged delegates so close, the nomination may come down to which candidate makes the most persuasive argument to the superdelegates.

Clinton has commitments from more superdelegates than Obama, 242 to 207.

There are roughly 800 superdelegates — mostly congressmen and governors, as well as members of the Democratic National Committee. While about half of the superdelegates have committed to a candidate, they are free to change their minds before the convention. (Rep. John Lewis, a prominent Civil Rights era leader, recently switched his support from Clinton to Obama).

Will Michigan and Florida Count?

The fight for the party's nomination is a muddle, in part, because the Democrats have not yet decided what to do with the delegates from Michigan and Florida.

On Wednesday, the Democratic governor of Michigan and the Republican governor of Florida urged the national party to allow those delegates to count at the national convention.

The chairman of the national party, Howard Dean, told NPR on Wednesday that, with regard to Michigan and Florida, "If you change the rules in the middle of the game, you disadvantage one candidate." He added that the two states could petition the national party's rules committee by setting forth a new plan for selecting delegates. Or they could appeal to the party's credentials committee in July to ask for the delegates to be seated at the convention.

The DNC stripped Florida and Michigan of their delegates when state party officials scheduled their primaries earlier than the national party would have liked. Clinton stayed on the ballot in those states. Obama remained on the ballot only in Florida but did not campaign there. Clinton technically "won" those contests, even though there were no actual delegates to award.

If the Florida and Michigan contests end up counting, Clinton could win the delegates in those states and also be ahead in the popular vote by more than 40,000 votes.

The Next Contests on the Calendar

None of the upcoming contests are likely to be decisive.

The Mississippi primary is on Tuesday; Obama could benefit from the state's 37.4 percent African-American population. African-Americans have overwhelmingly supported Obama in other Southern states, such as South Carolina and Louisiana.

Neither contest, though, will provide enough delegates to significantly stretch Obama's lead.

Clinton is expected to do well in the Pennsylvania primary on April 22, since the state has a large white, working-class, union-heavy population, much like the demographics of Ohio, where Clinton won on Tuesday.

But she, too, is unlikely to pick up enough delegates there to significantly close the gap.

The Money Chase

Traditionally, a presidential candidate who lags in the polls this late in the nominating process sees his cash flow dry up. But both Clinton and Obama continue to have financial success, and there's no evidence that the intra-party battle will hurt campaign contributions.

Obama and Clinton are raising more money than any candidate has ever raised in a contested primary contest. Clinton has said she raised $35 million in February; Obama's campaign says it took in substantially more than that. The real numbers — including the spending — won't be known until the next Federal Election Commission filings are due on March 20.

The Obama campaign is hedging on whether it will take public financing in the fall, assuming he is the nominee. Public financing would give him $84 million from the government, or roughly $1.25 million per day between the convention and Election Day. But it seems clear that he could raise more money privately.

Sharing the Democratic Ticket

One way for the Democrats to settle this close race: The two candidates could share the Democratic ticket — with one candidate as the presidential nominee and the other as the running mate. The question then not only becomes who would receive the most prominent billing, but also whether it makes political sense to have the other as a running mate.

On Wednesday, Clinton told CBS News that she would be willing to share the Democratic ballot with Obama, provided she is "first on the ticket" — that is, with him as her vice presidential running mate. She went on to say, "The people of Ohio said very clearly it should be me," referring to her win the previous night.

The Obama camp did not comment on Clinton's statement and has said that any vice presidential talks are premature.

Multiple Ballots at the Democratic Convention

There is a distinct possibility that neither candidate will arrive in Denver in August with enough delegates to sew up the nomination. That could cause problems for the Democrats — to have two candidates slamming each other for the next five months, while Arizona Sen. John McCain unifies the Republican Party and prepares for the nomination.

History shows the pitfalls of such a scenario: The last time the Democratic convention went past the first ballot for a presidential candidate was in 1952, when the party needed three ballots to nominate Adlai Stevenson. Stevenson lost the election to President Eisenhower.

One reason the Democrats have had more and longer-lasting multi-ballot nominating conventions is because, from their first convention in 1832 until they changed the rule at the 1936 convention, it took a two-thirds majority to decide the presidential or vice-presidential nomination. The Republicans have always used a simple majority.

Reporting and research by David Greene, Don Gonyea, Peter Overby, Ken Rudin, Cory Turner, Laurel Wamsley. Written by Nancy Cook.